As reported by N.J.com, specially trained retired police officers may be hired to provide security for public and private schools and community colleges in New Jersey under a bill Gov. Chris Christie signed into law Wednesday.
The governor conditionally vetoed an earlier version of the legislation two months ago because it did not require these “special law enforcement officers” to undergo “specialized training covering security issues that routinely arise in the school setting.”
“It is vital to ensure that the officer in integrated into the unique setting of a school community and is properly trained to function not only as a safety expert and law enforcer, but also as a liaison to community resources, educators and counselors,” Christie said in that conditional veto message.
The bill’s sponsors made the changes Christie sought. The bill (S86) was approved by the state Senate in October and by the Assembly on Nov. 21.
“Having trained, experienced officers in schools creates a safer environment for students and staff by deterring criminals from committing acts of violence,” state Sen. Anthony Bucco (R-Morris) said, one of the bill’s sponsors. “I’m happy we could work together on this issue and make our schools safer for everyone.”
The bill was first introduced after the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre in Newtown, Conn. four years ago.
These armed “class III special officers” must be under 65 years old and undergo the requisite training, according to the bill. They may work no more than 20 hours a week, and are not entitled to health or pension benefits for their service.
They would not replace school resource officers, who are specially trained full-time police officers stationed at some schools. However, as noted in our September blog covering the earlier version of this bill, it is yet to be seen whether these new positions will cut into future jobs regularly assigned to active police officers.
The legislation was sought after by the New Jersey State Association of Chiefs of Police. North Plainfield Police Chief William Parenti, the association’s president, thanked the governor and lawmakers for getting the law passed.
“Nothing is more important than the safety of our children, and we strongly believe that this law gives our state an important new tool in providing a safer environment for our school kids, our teachers, and everyone else who works at or visits schools and community colleges in our state,” Parenti said in a statement.